This is a continuing series using information from the booklet written by the National Institute on Aging working with the National Institutes of Health called: Talking With Your Doctor. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 05-3452 August 2005 (Reprinted April 2010)
Asking Questions About Your Medications
Doctors will usually prescribe medication for a symptom. This section will help guide you through some of the items you need to think and ask about. This section in the booklet does not discuss the world of alternative medicine and only hints of it a little later. The point though is that no matter where you go the person, whether a doctor or personal care manager, must know the information you have and you must ask them questions. Open and honest communication is a must. So…
The first thing is to understand why the medication is being prescribed. The doctor usually will write down the name of the medication, instructions and anything of note that he/she thinks you need to know about the prescription. Here is a list of suggested questions:
- What are the common side effects? Did you know that sometimes medications affect older people differently than younger people? If the medication doesn’t seem to be working tell your doctor but the booklet recommends that you ask your doctor first before you stop taking it.
- What should I pay attention to?
- When will the medicine begin to work?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- Should I take it at meals or between meals?
- Do I need to drink a whole glass of water with it?
- Are there foods, drugs, or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine?
- Will I need a refill? How do I arrange that?
I emphasize and so does the booklet on page 16 that it is important to include your pharmacist in the discussion. They are trained specifically in the art and science of medications. They generally have a greater understanding of the side effects and drug interactions and, if you use the same store each time you order, they have your records there and you can ask them for an interaction or side effect analysis each time a new prescription is issued. The booklet also emphasizes, as I did in the previous article, that if you use another doctor (such as a specialist) make sure that your doctor knows what they prescribed (and check in with your pharmacist as well).
You should have a handy list of all your medications. The list should include:
- The name of the drug
- What it is for
- Date started
- Doctor prescribing it
Here are some common abbreviations doctors use when prescribing medications (just for fun, I’ve included what I think are the Latin phrases associated with the translation):
p.r.n. (Pro Re Nata) as needed
a.c. (Ante Cibum) – before meals
q.d. (Quaque Die) – every day
p.c. (Post Cibum) – after meals
b.i.d. (Bis in Die) twice a day
h.s. (Hora Somni) – at bedtime
t.i.d. (Ter in Die) – three times a day
p.o. (Per Os) – by mouth
q.i.d. (Quattuor in Die) – four times a day
Next: How Can I Be Involved: Making Decisions With Your Doctor